365 Days

Today is my son’s first birthday. I don’t know how many times I am going to say that today, but I have a feeling it will be a lot.

It blows my mind how quickly this year has passed. I remember thinking that my pregnancy went quickly, but I had no idea that the year following would go even faster. The first three months were spent grieving heavily. The next two were spent adjusting to a new job. The three after that were full of daily celebrations that we were expecting again. After our second loss, time seemed to stand still and speed by at the same time.

Our life is drastically different than we thought it would be after having a baby; we haven’t learned how to be parents in the traditional sense. No feedings, diaper changes, first steps, first smiles, baby jabber, snuggles, or watching his eyes light up as he discovers the world. We didn’t get to take him on any trips, or visits to see his grandparents. We didn’t get to watch our brothers become uncles. Instead we, and everyone else, had to say hello and goodbye at the same time.

After losing Carter, I feel like we have continued to count time differently than the way other new parents do. We didn’t get to refer to the passing time with our son’s age. Instead, we had to share how many months or weeks it had been since we lost him. All of the anniversaries - the day we found out we were pregnant, the day we found out his gender, the day we first felt him kick - are heavier than they should be. His birthday is not as light and happy as it is supposed to be.

We don’t get to celebrate a sweet, little one year old. We don’t get to watch him smash a cake or play with new toys. We don’t get to wake him up with balloons in his crib. We don’t get to spoil him all day and tell him happy birthday every chance we get. We don’t get to plan a party for all family and friends to attend. We don’t get to end the day wondering how on earth it has been a whole year since we brought our little boy home.

Instead, we wonder how it has been a whole year since our world came crashing down. At 8:51 am, we’ll lay in bed and cry, remembering the moment we met our sweet boy exactly a year before. We’ll spend the day at the cemetery, leaving him flowers and releasing balloons. We’ll eat cake at home by ourselves. Or maybe we won’t. Maybe it will end up in the garbage because it doesn’t feel right eating cake without him.

Some people might think it’s weird to say that October 27th is our son’s birthday. They might tell us that it is weird to call it his birthday, but what else would you call it? We found out we lost him on October 26th, and that is the day we mourn. But October 27th was the day he was born. He may have been born still, but he was still born. And as sad as it was, it was still a beautiful day. We got to meet our son and give him a name. I got to see my husband hold our son for the very first time. We got to see his face, kiss his chubby little cheeks, and hold his little hands and feet. We were able to feel his weight in our arms and tell him we loved him, over and over again.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the worst day of our lives, but today is our son’s birthday, the anniversary of the most precious day that we have had and ever will have in our entire lives. We’ve had a whole year of loving him, and a whole year of missing him. 365 days filled with cemetery visits, tears, anger, and sadness, but also joy, full hearts, and happiness knowing that we are a family. 365 days of being parents, and 365 days of having the greatest love we’ve ever known.

We would only trade the past year to have him here with us, but we are still grateful for the hard hand we’ve been dealt. If this is the only way we can be his parents, then we will take it. We will embrace our lives as non-traditional parents, and we will celebrate our boy every chance we get.

Happy birthday, sweet Carter. Thank you for the hardest, very best year. We are so proud to be your parents, and look forward to loving you more with every passing year.